The AOS 93 Board will hold a special meeting at the central office at 5 p.m., Monday, Sept. 18 to plan a future public forum regarding issues and concerns with Lincoln Academy.
The board decided to schedule the meeting Tuesday, Aug. 15, after a discussion about the relationship between the Lincoln Academy Board of Trustees and the school district.
The conversation included a report from AOS 93 Board Chair Joshua Hatch, of Nobleboro, about his experience at three meetings of the Lincoln Academy Board of Trustees. Members of the public also raised concerns at Tuesday’s meeting, including former LA teachers, parents of current and former students, and an honorary LA trustee.
Hatch said that before the last LA board meeting he attended, he sent the LA board a list of topics he wanted to discuss. The list included LA’s finances and data on student achievement.
Hatch said LA’s administration and board need to pay more attention to the “guts” of the school, the internal factors that enable students to succeed in a positive learning environment.
“Spending seems to be geared toward facilities and campus improvements, not the quality of education, not on support for teachers or for their professional development,” Hatch said. “A pretty campus is nice, but your foundation is your curriculum, student achievement, and keeping track of that.”
Hatch said that with the amount of money AOS 93 towns send to LA, there should be some public involvement.
“The AOS sends roughly two-thirds of its income up there, really with no oversight or inclusion on the (district’s) part,” he said.
AOS 93 Board member Christa Thorpe, of Bremen, echoed Hatch’s comments.
“I know that officially (LA is) a private school, but officially doesn’t matter with the amount of money involved. I think it would really benefit Lincoln to continue thinking of themselves as a public school,” Thorpe said.
Hatch said neighboring school districts like RSU 40 have a connection with their students from kindergarten through high school.
He said each member of the AOS 93 Board and the district’s school committees was elected to see to the public education needs of their student population from kindergarten to graduation, not just from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We deserve that connection, K through 12, right up through the school system,” Hatch said.
AOS 93 Board member David Kolodin, of Bristol, also spoke on tracking student achievement.
“K through 8, it seems there is always testing for the kids and the school. This doesn’t seem to be happening at Lincoln Academy, except for the PSAT. We don’t know how they would stack up against the other seven to eight private schools in Maine,” Kolodin said.
“As much as people hate test scores, that’s what they look at,” Kolodin said.
In addition to evaluating students, the board discussed the importance of evaluating teachers at LA.
“Even if you have (evaluations), it’s also who is in charge of the process. It’s not just that it is being done. Let’s see how it is being done,” said AOS 93 Board member Stephanie Nelson, of Newcastle.
Hatch tempered his statements with an optimistic outlook and a willingness to work with the LA board to address concerns, citing the benefits for both parties.
“Our best course of action is to get (the trustees) on board with what we want, not fight it out and see who wins,” Hatch said.
Hatch said that in previous meetings, the AOS 93 representative to the LA board has mostly been an observer. He said this changed at the last board meeting, when he was on the agenda and had an opportunity to address the LA board. He said he appreciated the LA board’s willingness to listen to the AOS 93 representative.
“It’s not us and them. We all need to be in this together,” Hatch said.
Hatch said he received a positive response to his remarks at a recent board meeting from both a few current board members and from honorary trustees in attendance.
He said that moving forward, he plans to continue attending LA board meetings to provide information to the board’s members and leadership.
“We have a right to be involved in this process,” he said. “We have a right to see financial information. We really should have a vote on this board, considering the amount of money the AOS contributes. I really feel like we’re in the right. This is information and a process we have a huge right to be involved in.”
Throughout the meeting, Hatch reiterated the importance of accountability for any institution, whether a business, sports team, or high school.
“I believe in fostering a culture of accountability. If you start with accountability, the more things will fall into line,” Hatch said.
Hatch said that through accountability comes trust in an institution.
The LA board needs “to take over the reins of power, step up to the plate, and hold the people they hire accountable,” Hatch said.
Dennis Anderson, a former Great Salt Bay School Committee member, said he wants more transparency from LA.
“When we talk about accountability, to me, it starts with transparency. It’s easy for us to talk about measuring success or failure as test scores, but don’t lose sight of the individuals on the margins of society who are not being given fair treatment,” Anderson said.
Anderson urged the board to push for details on the LA budget. “Those who don’t have a voice are going to be the first impacted, and those are the ones I’m worried about,” he said.
AOS 93 interim Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said he has met with LA Head of School David Sturdevant and passed on the concerns he has heard from the AOS 93 Board.
Hodgkin said Sturdevant expressed a desire to meet with the superintendent, Hatch, and LA board President Christine Wajer.
Hodgkin said the AOS 93 Board needs to carefully plan the public forum and consider its next steps.
“This needs to be well-orchestrated. It can’t just be angry,” Hodgkin said.
Hodgkin said it is important to determine public sentiment.
“How widespread is the dissatisfaction? If it’s 20 or 50 people, there’s a huge difference in those numbers,” Hodgkin said.
The superintendent also stressed the importance of transparency in organizing the public forum, and said it would be critical to include LA in the process.
Hatch said the education of board members’ children, and the children of siblings and neighbors, is too important a topic to relinquish the possibility of further involvement.
He cited the decisions by the LA board made without input from parents, such as the creation of a May term and discontinuing a laptop program, as adding to public frustration.
“This gulf between Lincoln and the community is a real thing, and I think the hardest part is getting them to realize this isn’t an imaginary thing going on,” Hatch said. “I want to collect information and present it to them in a way there is no dodging the reality that exists out here. This is real and these issues aren’t going away.”
“By having a public forum, we show (Lincoln Academy) this is real. There is a real impetus here to change this for the better,” Hatch said.
Sturdevant and an LA spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.